Te Arawa paddlers, young and old, are preparing for a journey north to Waitangi Day commemorations.
Forty paddlers, mostly rangatahi, are planning to take a Te Arawa waka to Waitangi next year and Rotorua mother Rena Huriwai has filled all the seats on the waka and has the approval of iwi koeke (elders).
She hopes the trip will improve the paddlers' cultural and historical knowledge, bring participating whānau closer and inspire them to live life to the full.
"Cause there's so much death ... What are the reasons to live for? Heaps of stuff."
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Tamariki as young as 4 have been out in the waka with their parents and hoe (paddles) so far, to get them "used to the water".
Huriwai said, "it's just a better feeling with the tamariki being on the waka" but they must wear lifejackets.
She was scared of the water when she was younger and did not participate in hoe waka.
"I was a rugby league player. A tomboy. But I would have loved it to have done that."
Huriwai first went to Waitangi for the February 6 commemorations in 2014 and has been wanting to help give others the opportunity since.
Mataku-Ariki de Roo is normally scared of deep water but in the waka, she is not.
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"Because there's so many in the boat too. I'm not by myself."
She has been taking part with her young sons who "love it".
"They haven't experienced sports properly yet so hoe waka has been their first ... It's about connecting to the wai spiritually too."
Six of the people in the waka will be bailers, in charge of removing water that splashes into the boat.
The paddlers will be making their own pākē capes and woven tāniko bands to wear in the waka, during wānanga with kuia.
"It's just an opportunity for them to learn a lot of basic stuff," Huriwai said.
"Participation is the commitment to this kaupapa, the waka that connects us together as one."
Other wānanga will teach the paddlers the paddle salutes and haka they need to learn for the day.
"So there might be 300 or 400 of us but we all know the same haka and that's out of respect for going into that rohe up there. So we become one. We are not up there for the protesting ... They [the rangatahi] can decide later how they feel [about Waitangi politics]."
The group members are fundraising to cover their travel, kai and accommodation expenses.
They already have financial support to help pay for the life jackets and 24 paddles from Aotearoa Waka, Ngāti Pikiao koeke, Wood Masters Rotorua and the Ngāti Pikiao Iwi Trust.
"These hoe will be specially made because of their weight and the ages of some of our babies ... They can't be too heavy. When they're dry they might weigh about a kilogram but when they're wet they can double that."
Huriwai hopes to help future Te Arawa paddlers go to Waitangi at least biennially.
To give koha go to the Rangatahi Kaihoe ki Te Arawa Facebook page for details.